64°Clear

by Anna Merod April 23, 2018 at 11:35 am 0

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

When Sharmi Albrechtsen’s daughter was struggling in math, she tried using robotic toys that taught coding to help.

It was a complete failure.

“I was out $300 and she wasn’t interested in it, said Albrechtsen. “It was difficult to build, difficult to code, and I thought ‘there should be an easier way to get to the coding part of things without building and also something that would engage her.”

Albrechtsen noticed all the female dolls laying around her daughter’s room, and the idea came to her: why not combine a robot and doll together?

In 2016, she created SmartGurlz, later moving the company from Bethesda, Md., to Crystal City in 2017.

SmartGurlz has earned more than $1 million in sales since its inception.

Currently, there are five different female dolls with their own stories. Each character rides a scooter controlled by the user, who codes through the Sugarcoded app. Another SmartGurlz development, the app can be downloaded from various app stores.

The company intends to release a new male doll later this year, around the holiday season, Albrechtsen added.

Though Albrechtsen’s daughter is a little too old to appreciate the doll, she does work for SmartGurlz, goes to coding workshops, and holds in-store demonstrations on the weekends.

“She’s really thrilled about the product and working with us when she can, when she’s not studying,” Albrechtsen said.

Last November, SmartGurlz landed a $200,000 investment with FUBU founder Daymond John, on ABC’s Shark Tank, in exchange for 25 percent ownership of the business. It was a tough eight months, she said, while competing against 40,000 other companies trying to get on the show.

“There were times we didn’t think we were going to be on, then we finally got chosen [it] was amazing,” she said.

After the show, SmartGurlz made between $100,000-200,000 in sales within 24 hours. Customers can buy SmartGurlz on its website, Amazon.com or Walmart.com. Albrechtsen added that she’s working on a special project with Walmart for 2019.

But while strong sales and a Shark Tank spot have been great for business, it’s been tough for SmartGurlz to support its own growth.

“The whole financing game is difficult,” Albrechtsen said. “We have major growth and you have to order products and I would say you get into this difficult area where you’re not able to support your own growth and then you lose opportunities and that’s painful.”

In the future, Albrechtsen wants to brand SmartGurlz as an educational tool, using it in after school programs. SmartGurlz is working with Girl Scouts of America and Black Girls Code with their programs, but the company wants to do more. The company is piloting programs in New Jersey and California and, hopefully, she said, eventually to the rest of the country.

“You’ll see more of an educational side from SmartGurlz in the future, where we’ll be more dedicated to curriculums,” said Albrechtsen. “That’s really the way to make change instead of having something that maybe you play with maybe you don’t.”

Photos courtesy of SmartGurlz and ABC

by Anna Merod April 16, 2018 at 12:45 pm 0

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

The most difficult part of starting up Lovelytics was coming up with a name, according to its founder, Scott Love.

“You can’t do anything until you come up with a name. You can’t file for an LLC, you can’t create a website, you can’t buy a domain. That honestly took forever, it sounds silly,” Love said.

Luckily, his girlfriend came up with the name “Lovelytics,” and Love was able to begin building his Rosslyn-based business intelligence service after two years working in the industry.

Lovelytics crafts data visualizations for companies to help them to better understand their metrics, and thus make smarter business decisions.

Its customers range from Fortune 100 companies to local D.C. startups and non-profits.

“We can work with anyone who collects data and has a desire to better understand it,” said Love, who serves as CEO.

With a wide range of clientele comes a range of data-driven projects, including a donor and donation tracking service generated for a Virginia non-profit.

The non-profit was then able to reduce the time needed to manage its donations and more quickly gain insights about donation data.

Other Lovelytics projects include an interactive map created with D.C. Open Data that shows which intersections have the most traffic crashes. An example of the map is also pictured below.

Lovelytics will be one of several Arlington startups attending the Collision 2018 Tech Conference in New Orleans.

“It’s a great conference for us because we can be in front of both investors [and] a lot of prospective clients,” Love said.

At the conference, Lovelytics intends to present an interactive map to show conference attendees how far they traveled to arrive at the event, with a scoreboard showing who traveled the furthest.

In the future, Love said he hopes he can work with more government clients and continue building new products and solutions with tools like Mapbox and Tableau.

by Anna Merod April 9, 2018 at 11:45 am 0

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

“A robust end-to-end technology platform for financial planning and investments” is being built in Crystal City.

The app, 1787fp, is mobile software that lets the everyday investor manage their finances and work toward financial independence.

The app contains three components. The first is a free financial planning and budgeting tool. The second, a premium feature, helps users manage and create a financial portfolio. The third is a free service for users to check their credit score.

The premium investment feature will cost users less than what they would pay at a big brokerage firm such as Wells Fargo or Goldman Sachs, but will be more expensive than the lowest cost providers in the financial advisory space.

“We really want to position ourselves as a premium player in helping people plan and work toward financial independence,” said 1787fp founder and CEO Jean Jacques Borno.

Borno said that he hopes his customers are able to build up enough wealth through the app that they only work because they want to, not because they have to.

After collecting research on the average user of financial planning services, Borno found that people were going to seven to eight different websites for their financial planning needs. He hopes 1787fp will become an app that streamlines all those services.

The idea for 1787fp grew out of Borno’s 15 years of working as a financial adviser at Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch. At each of the firms, Borno normally worked with clients with at least $1 million in assets. But on the weekends, he began working with clients that were coming out of law school or were engineers — people who had a steady income but definitely not $1 million in assets. Over time he was able to help them build their portfolios.

“I really thought the large companies were really missing a boat,” he said. 

With 1787fp, users will be able diversify their portfolio like a millionaire, Borno said.

“The thing that’s really cool is that the way that we set up the proposals,” he said. “In the traditional world a person would need a million dollars in order to properly diversify but we can give them the same portfolio that the so called ‘billionaire’ would have for their first $5,000 or $10,000.”

Borno got his certified financial planner license and went to the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia, where he created 1787fp in February 2016.

The name for the app came in two parts. 1787 was inspired by the year the constitution was created, Borno said. And “fp” stands for financial planner.

“I just wanted to get something that kind of paid tribute to the world’s greatest startup — the United States,” Borno said.

The app is not out yet, but a beta version should be released shortly. Then once Borno reviews feedback from the beta version he will make adjustments and then release final version in the summer.

by Anna Merod April 2, 2018 at 11:45 am 0

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

The idea for Basket, a grocery shopping app that compares prices across stores, came to Neil Kataria, the startup’s co-founder, when he was just 9 years old.

Growing up, Kataria would clip coupons with his dad and compare his grocery list across the five stores local to him.

“I just loved doing it. It’s just part of my DNA,” Kataria said. “Why are people overpaying when that information is available? Just takes time to aggregate it and do it right.”

Fast forward to when Kataria moved to D.C. and had his second child in 2013. He comes home late from a trip and lugs in two boxes from Amazon holding 24 items of groceries and baby supplies. The price? $400, he said.

He went to local stores with his Amazon receipt and found that he could have saved 40 percent shopping at those local shops instead. The only problem was that this price comparison process took 12 hours.

At first, Kataria says that five retailers kicked him and his co-founder, Andy Ellwood, out of their stores when the two pitched Basket, Kataria said. Instead, the co-founers turned to user generated content, and created a game to get people to add prices from stores into the app.

“We spent the last three years building that community and being able to collect prices from every grocery store in the US,” Kataria said. “The community piece just started to kick off, to a point where we hit 1 million, 10 million, 100 million so fast.”

Food brands and retailers have now started approaching Basket for its content, which is a way the company can make money since the app does not require a fee to download nor does it have advertising.

Since March, the app now alerts users about sales going on in the store and compares prices with online retailers too. 

The startup began in 2014 in D.C. and then moved to Clarendon in 2016. The company raised raised $12 million in capital and has amassed 600,000 users since the app launched.

In the future, Basket wants to be able to incorporate recipes into the app, with which it could automatically tell users where to buy ingredients across various stores.

Kataria added that Basket wants to transform its in-store shopping experience by creating a list that can cross off items, and possibly be able to pay with Basket and get a 5 percent rebate.

“Seventy percent of people still use a paper shopping list or a text list,” Kataria said. “Our goal is to move that 70 percent and incrementally over to Basket over the next few years and, if we can do just 10 percent of that, we’re going to be really successful.”

by Anna Merod March 26, 2018 at 11:45 am 0

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Arlington-based Storyblocks began its startup journey when founder Joel Holland was just in high school in Northern Virginia working on a web series.

Holland was interviewing prominent business leaders, including former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, for the series asking what teenagers should choose to do after graduating high school.

“He was sitting down with then Governor Schwarzenegger and did this really insightful interview but the cinematography, if you will, was rather bland. It was just a camera pointed at a tripod pointed at the side of two people’s heads. Not exactly must see TV,” Storyblocks CEO TJ Leonard said.

That’s when Holland researched how companies like the Smithsonian, Discovery and National Geographic produce such high quality documentaries, and the answer was stock video and images. So when Holland went to purchase his own stock video the total rounded up to $1,500.

“Of course for a high school student with no budget that was a total nonstarter,” Leonard said. “So that was the moment Joel said to himself ‘Wow there have got to be more people like me who want access to high quality creative content that’s affordable and I bet in the future there are going to be even more people like me.”’

Storyblocks’ current mission is to empower digital storytellers through high quality affordable stock media, said Leonard. The company has three subscription plans: $49 per month, $149 per year and $198 per year for a premium subscription that allows you to manage up to five “submembers” for free.

The regular monthly and annual plan allow unlimited downloads and usage of content from the member library and a discount on a marketplace of millions of other videos. The free member library has $10 million worth of content across video, audio and images, according to the company.

More than 40,000 people contribute to Storyblocks’ global network of content creators, Leonard said.

Storyblocks has gone through several transformations and one move since its inception in 2009. The startup moved last July from Reston to Courthouse, because it needed more space and wanted to be more accessible to its employees by being so close to the Metro, Leonard said.

Storyblocks began as Footage Firm, which shipped stock footage through the mail via DVDs. Leonard said once the startup realized that DVDs were a “dying medium” it digitized its entire archive in 2012 and changed the name to Videoblocks with an online subscription model.

The company rebranded again in 2017 to Storyblocks when it launched stock services for photos and audio as well.

“So many artists today don’t think of themselves as a videographer per se. They think of themselves as a storyteller. They’ll use skills, they’ll use motion, they’ll use music. They’ll use whatever they need to in order to communicate their vision,” Leonard said.

Photos courtesy Storyblocks

by Anna Merod March 19, 2018 at 2:30 pm 0

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Several Arlington startups, including Clarendon-based Adlumin, attended the SXSW conference on technology, music culture and film more than a week ago in Austin, Texas.

Adlumin, a cybersecurity company that uses machine learning to track client behavior and sends alerts for suspicious activity, participated in an AED-organized panel called “War Games: From Battlefield to Ballot Box.” The discussion touched on innovations and changes in the industry.

The discussion touched on innovations and changes in the industry, including trends in how cyber attacks are being perpetrated that panelists have encountered. Adlumin’s CEO Robert Johnston was on the panel for his experience dealing with the cyber attacks in 2016 on the Democratic National Committee.

“[Rob’s] seen it go from really a complete use of malware to get into a network to now it’s really on more stealing credentials,” said Timothy Evans, co-founder and VP of business development of Adlumin. “It’s more along the lines of what nation states are doing to hack into networks. Your regular criminal hacker is acting much more like a nation state,”

 “That is a real question — I think the U.S. citizens, we’re really concerned about what we’re doing to stop interference next year or this year in 2018,” he said, adding that there were at least six questions regarding efforts to prevent Russia from meddling in the 2018 midterms.

Andrea Limbago, chief social scientist at Endgame, a different cybersecurity company for enterprises also based in Clarendon, held a talk called “Bots, Trolls, Warriors & The Path Ahead” at SXSW. She discussed the intersection of policy and innovation needed to fight the bots and trolls.

Limbago said that the audience at her talk was engaging, which is something that she doesn’t always experience at tech conferences.

“It’s great having a growing tech community in Arlington, and then representing that out here [in Austin],” Limbago said.

Several other Arlington businesses were at SXSW, including Axios, Trustify, and Fortalice, said Cara O’Donnell, Arlington Economic Development’s public relations director.

Photo courtesy of Endgame

by Anna Merod March 12, 2018 at 11:50 am 0

Startup Monday header

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

(Updated at 12:05 p.m.) John Kaufhold had been working at NIH doing deep learning research, but realized he’d be better off working on his own.

So he quit his job in May of 2013 and began Deep Learning Analytics, which is currently based in Rosslyn, just a month later.

Deep learning finds patterns in data. Some examples of deep learning and artificial intelligence are Siri, when the technology learns a user’s voice and transcribes his or her words, and self-driving cars that learn roads and driving patterns over time.

At Deep Learning Analytics, data scientists specifically focus on the content of images, Kaufhold said. In other words, they find things in images and say what they are.

“You can do that in medical, supply chain management, you can do that in biology, you can do that in defense applications. So there are plenty of applications where you can get a lot of economic value from you have an image and then you have to say what’s in it,” Kaufhold said.

Some of the first projects Deep Learning Analytics worked on included analyzing combat casualty care and predicting school dropouts for Arlington Public Schools.

One of the biggest and most surprising projects the startup won was a government program by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) on analyzing radar images. DARPA was having a problem looking at radar images and could not get past a longstanding benchmark. Research into the problem had been abandoned for years. But then Kaufhold approached the project manager at DARPA proposing that deep learning could help.

So Deep Learning Analytics sent a proposal and within six weeks they were significantly outperforming the state of the art. As a result, they were awarded $6 million for the project and had beat out major government contractors such as Boeing, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin and only two people including Kaufhold worked on the proposal.

“It was really unusual that two people could write a proposal for a $6 million program and win it,” Kaufhold said. “It’s also crazy that not only did we win that we then won the next phase while competing the companies that should have been able to outperform us.”

In July 2017, Deep Learning Analytics was awarded another $6 million for the second phase of the project. Now the startup has gone from 2 employees in 2014 to 12 today.

In November, for the third year in a row, the startup was named the one of the county’s “Fast Four” fastest growing companies by Arlington Economic Development.

“It’s great to be recognized for our growth and it also speaks to Arlington as a place to grow a small business like ours especially in a space that’s really hard to recruit in, it’s really hard to find good data scientists and talent that can do things like deep learning and artificial intelligence,” Kaufhold said.

While Kaufhold said he’s honored by the recognition, he said there isn’t enough credit given to Deep Learning Analytics for its diversity. The startup currently has six men and six women on its team.

“That’s something I wish were recognized more in the Washington, D.C. area. I think we could be a better public beacon of that kind of leadership of women in this region,” he said.

by Anna Merod March 5, 2018 at 11:45 am 0

Startup Monday header

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Bo Davis, CEO and co-founder of MarginEdge, has been in the restaurant business since 2005, when he opened a sushi conveyor belt restaurant called Wasabi in the Tysons Corner mall.

But Davis is also familiar with the technology sector, as he started a software company called Prometheus that was later sold in 2002. In his experience running a restaurant, Davis had to deal with tons of paperwork involving lots of purchasing information. He also struggled with getting all the purchasing information into his account system while keeping all inventory and recipes up to date.

“It’s just a bit of a nightmare, honestly. That inspired it,” Davis said.

Then MarginEdge, a software application designed to help restaurants with their back office accounting processes, was launched by Davis and a group of co-founders in 2015.

The web-based platform comes with a phone app that allows restaurant employees to take a pictures of invoices and receipts. From there a team in India does the data processing from the invoices and within 24 hours all item-level detail is in MarginEdge’s system.

The software also ties into a restaurant’s point of sales, allowing MarginEdge to pull from the restaurant’s sales data by gathering the cost of things bought and sold. Then MarginEdge can compile reports on food costs, spending and other points of interest, Davis said.

Basically, MarginEdge simplifies accounting procedures and makes things more transparent for restaurants, he added.

For the first couple years of MarginEdge, Davis said the Arlington-based startup only had 20 restaurants for customers that were friends of the co-founders. It’s only within the past year that the company began taking on more customers and now has 200 clients, growing 400 percent in the process.

Most of the clients are local restaurants including District Taco, Buffalo Wing Factory and Glory Days Grill.

“We’re pretty conservative people so we spent two years making sure it was robust, it was strong enough,” Davis said. “And so it was more of a question taking our time to make sure we got it right, and then once we felt like it was really working then we were ready to take it out.”

On MarginEdge’s website, Greg Casten owner of Ivy City Smokehouse, Tony & Joe’s and Nick’s River Place, said the software has “so dramatically improved the way we process invoices and monitor critical costs that we credit it for producing the most profits we’ve ever achieved period after period.”

Restaurants have told Davis that they’ve saved 10-20 hours a week in data entry since using the product.

“I’m most proud of the fact that restaurateurs are enjoying what they get out of it and it’s making their lives easier,” Davis said.

Some clients have also decided to invest into MarginEdge. The company announced last month that it had raised $3 million to take its service national.

“It’s exciting to think that customers that we didn’t know liked it so much they invested in the company,” Davis said.

Photos via MarginEdge

by Anna Merod February 26, 2018 at 10:55 am 0

Startup Monday header

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Janice Omadeke, CEO and founder of The Mentor Method, which matches mentors and underrepresented professionals, said she was always a top performer in her career. Yet she never found a good mentoring program at her previous jobs.

One of the reasons she founded the Arlington-based startup was because she thought she was being treated as another check box in previous mentoring programs for external attributes such as her skin color and age.

“I was disappointed by corporate mentoring programs that matched me based on my race or my age, and I never felt as though they really invested in me,” she said.

Technology is helping to correct that. When connecting mentors and mentees, The Mentor Method uses an algorithm that helps reduce implicit bias connecting people on a deeper level, Omadeke said.

The way The Mentor Method works is that a company, wanting to hire more inclusively, pays for the mentorship program, supplying its own top performing employees as mentors. Then Mentor Method connects the companies with mentees who enter the program for free.

The end goal is to increase employee retention while also increasing diversity in the workplace. “Stop losing top performers,” the company’s website urges.

A proof of its effectiveness: 90 percent of the startup’s mentor matches still communicate a year later, according to Omadeke.

“We’ve seen a lot of success, and it’s actually really exciting to go from having an idea in my living room to actually being able to help people,” Omadeke said. “That’s why I started the Mentor Method to really change the way people talk and view inclusion.”

The deeper mission of the organization is to help underrepresented professionals, particularly women and people of color.

One of the success story revolves around a Mentor Method user who who signed up as a mentee. The mentee had studied graphic design at a tech bootcamp and was having a hard time finding work because “she didn’t fit a certain box,” Omadeke said. While working at TGI Fridays the user was matched with a mentor at a large consulting company and within two months of their working relationship she was offered an internship which turned into a full-time job.

Omadeke noted that the mentor also benefited from the relationship, saying that it really opened the mentor’s eyes to other socioeconomic classes. Later, the mentor pushed more within the organization to ensure inclusive practices were considered at all levels.

When Omadeke thought about why some mentoring programs didn’t work, she noticed that companies didn’t put enough resources into the efforts. Or the company would have someone who ran the program as a side opportunity, not full time. As a result, she wanted to make a program that was seamless, pain-free and high-value as possible.

“That way companies can spend less time looking at spreadsheets and trying to figure out what to do and more time really seeing that data and reporting so that they know how to continue that investment in their employees,” Omadeke said.

The reason young professionals come to The Mentor Method is because it’s a challenge to find a mentor, she said. Perhaps their employer views them as a checkbox instead of an asset, or they may not feel valued at their company, or they just don’t have the resources to find a mentor.

“They’re also tired of standard corporate mentoring method that doesn’t really take into account personality, value, skill set, where you want to go,” Omadeke said. The Mentor Method “is a more people-focused, authentic approach to that and people are responding very positively to it.”

Photos courtesy The Mentor Method

by Anna Merod February 12, 2018 at 11:45 am 0

Startup Monday header

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Todd Moore spends three to five hours a day listening to podcasts.

“I’ve never really been happy with the existing podcast apps,” he said.

That’s where the idea for Playapod, a cross-platform syncing podcast app, came in. The app, created by Moore through the Crystal City-based TMSOFT, best known for its white noise app, is compatible with all Android and iOS devices and is available to download from the Google Play Store, Apple App Store and the Amazon App store. The app launched last week.

One podcast-playing problem that bothered Moore was the inability to sync podcasts across different devices from different platforms. Another issue was the difficulty of relocating where someone left off listening to a podcast.

“Something that frustrates me with all audio playback app, like even Amazon’s audio books, they never show you what you’ve listened to,” he said.

That made it easy to lose place in a podcast if, for example, the user accidentally touch the wrong button. On Playapod, users can see exactly where they left off if they lose their place through the precision progress bar. Users can also bookmark the most-recently played portion of a podcast for future playback, said Moore.

Playapod is free and has no advertisements. Another feature includes the ability to download podcasts so users can listen offline.

“I think the interface of Playapod is very simple, and it’s intuitive and it’s easy to navigate,” Moore said. “So I think it’s going to be a real hit based on the initial feedback I’m seeing.”

Playapod may have some big shoes to fill against its competitors at Apple and Amazon, but Moore said he’s not concerned.

“I think if people try Playapod, they’re going to see a better feature set. I think they’re going to enjoy this type of listening experience, and I’ve spent a year on this, so I’m a little biased,” he said.

by Anna Merod February 5, 2018 at 11:45 am 0

Startup Monday header

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Fret Zealot is a game changer when it comes to learning how to play the guitar, said Shaun Masavage, CEO of Fret Zealot.

The technology is a LED light script that can be installed on any full-sized electric or acoustic guitar. The light script is accompanied with an app that teaches people how to play different chords and songs by indicating which strings to play via the lights. The LED light script is also accompanied with a small rechargeable battery pack that can last up to 12 hours.

To install the Fret Zealot, the strings must be pulled aside to place the lights on the fret board.

Masavage said he was inspired to create Fret Zealot after learning how many people give up learning to play the guitar.

“The statistic now is that 90 percent of people stop learning guitar, and it’s just like why? Normally it’s barriers to entry, so we designed Fret Zealot to take away all of those barriers to entry,” Masavage said.

The Arlington-based startup in Crystal City has been in development for five years, and shipped its first orders of Fret Zealot in December and has sold 3,000 so far. The product has also reached a global scale, selling to more than 40 different countries.

Before the technology became accessible to the public, Fret Zealot launched a Kickstarter campaign that raised nearly $250,000 within a month. Just recently the cost of the LED lights dropped making it possible to sell Fret Zealot for a more affordable price at $200.

“[This] is our year,” Masavage said. The company has been in talks with major guitar manufacturers and several retailers, he said.

Fret Zealot will also be expanding to different instruments. In the spring, a bass version will be released and a ukulele version will come out later in the summer.

The app has a tuner and currently 100 songs for anyone to play. In a few weeks, it will be able to listen to the user, so when playing songs the app will go at the user’s pace — not showing the next note until the user has played it. Soon users will also be able to upload any song they want to the app so long as it passes the app’s quality standards.

Several music teachers have reached out to the company, wanting to build their own courses using Fret Zealot, said John Tolly, chief technology officer of Fret Zealot.

“[We are] not even replacing teachers, we’re adding to them. They can have students learn proper notes and chords, and then they can concentrate on helping with technique,” Masavage said.

For Masavage it’s been very satisfying seeing people from beginners to retirees use Fret Zealot.

“It’s very fulfilling, because you see people at all levels light up when they use the product,” he said.

Photos Courtesy Shaun Masavage

by Chris Teale January 29, 2018 at 11:45 am 0

Startup Monday header

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

A Crystal City-based manufacturer of so-called “super coffee” looks set to appear on the popular ABC television show “Shark Tank.”

Sunniva, founded in 2015 by brothers Jordan, Jake and Jimmy DeCicco, appears to be set to appear on the show where entrepreneurs seek the investments of four millionaires, on Sunday, February 11.

In a preview of the show, ABC says viewers can expect to hear from “a trio of brothers from Arlington, Virginia,” who, “present their all-natural super beverage.”

The three brothers auditioned for “Shark Tank” last year. In an audition video posted to YouTube, Jordan DeCicco said Sunniva is looking for a $400,000 investment from the “Sharks” in return for a 5 percent stake in the company. It’s unclear if that is the amount the brothers will actually be seeking on the show.

“As college student-athletes, we were tired,” Jake DeCicco said in the video. “We were falling asleep in class after practice. Our school stores offered the usual unhealthy coffees and energy drinks. But we refused to put that garbage into our bodies.”

The drink combines Colombian coffee, coconut oil, and a lactose-free milk protein is a low-fat, low-cal beverage that the DeCiccos said offers a longer-term energy boost compared to other products that often provide an energy spike and a crash later. Each bottle has 90mg of caffeine, which is pretty standard for an 8 oz. cup of coffee.

Jake DeCicco first started making and selling the drink from his dorm room at Philadelphia University, and then enlisted the help of his older brother Jordan, who was at business school at Georgetown University. Oldest brother Jim is the CEO, while Jake is listed as COO.

“Now, we’ve come a long way from our little brother’s dorm room, but we’re just getting started,” Jim DeCicco said in the audition video. “Sharks, as athletes, we need a coach to help us refine our business fundamentals and share our super coffee with the world.”

by Anna Merod January 22, 2018 at 11:45 am 0

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

A new app hopes to create a seamless way for users to plan a travel itinerary and keep track of all their travel documents, including visa information, in one place.

Local company Visajump hopes to take away the stress and worry travelers have when trying to keep up with documentation and the bureaucratic processes of traveling.

While the app is still in development, its co-founders, Craig Chavis and Wendy Truong, have been in touch with more than 20 embassies.

Many have agreed to keep a continuing relationship with Visajump so users will be able to receive live updates regarding travel alerts and visa information, Chavis said. In turn, he added, users can also provide live updates from the ground.

“Every passport has a unique, different situation, so changes occur all the time, and so having those relationships with the embassies we’re able to stay ahead of the game,” Chavis said.

Currently, Chavis and Truong are testing out the visa database feature in the first version, Chavis said. This includes going beyond the questions — do users care about immunizations? How long does it take to get a visa? How much will it cost?

“You know basically we’re figuring out how the travelers think, how they do their planning process from the beginning to the end,” Chavis said. “And so we’re gauging those different responses, because you know every traveler is different.”

The vision behind Visajump came out of Chavis and Truong’s passion for travel. Chavis had recently travelled abroad for three years and Truong had travelled for 19 years.

When Chavis was abroad he met other travelers who had issues obtaining their visas, keeping track of travel plans and staying organized. So once he returned to the U.S. and met Truong at Startup Week D.C. the two wanted to solve this solution on a global scale.

Truong added that once the U.S. passports are established in the app, the two want to start working on other passport user cases.

As a Vietnamese woman, Truong said she always needed a visa during her 19 years abroad. In fact, Truong believes the market for the app lies within developing countries.

“In turn, yes there’s a lot of U.S. travelers going abroad but not a lot of them require visas,” she said. “Whereas people from developing countries, they actually are traveling more cause there is a middle class rising from those markets and you know for them to go anywhere they require visas.”

Overall, it is the two founders’ avid passion for travel that has driven the app forward since its inception four months ago. The company has several investors and it meets with them weekly.

Next up, Chavis and Truong plan to enter into the Airport Innovation Challenge, a program that it said will “activate the startup community and identify innovations that will transform the passenger journey.”

by Chris Teale January 8, 2018 at 11:45 am 0

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

A phone application that launched last year is already helping more than 500 people in and around Arlington to go to and host private events.

Festi launched for Beta testing in May 2017, and is available on both iOS and Android. It allows people to host private events like yoga lessons or tell anyone nearby that they are selling homemade cookies. Hosts can then charge an admission fee through the app, and accept or reject anyone who signs up to come.

Anyone with a profile can follow their friends’ activity, like social media, and sign up for an event that interests them. Like ride-hailing apps Uber and Lyft, they can store credit card information for a quick-pay option, while events are also on offer for free.

Founder Rita Ting-Hopper, a Clarendon resident, said that it goes further than existing software like Meetup, which is for more public events attended by many people, rather than smaller gatherings.

“We’re talking about having a poker night at your house or baking cookies or a private dinner or a rooftop happy hour with just a few people,” she said. “I think the concept of Meetup is more for public and larger groups, and this is more personal.”

And included in the app is a feature to allow guests to communicate privately with the event’s host, putting the onus on them to swap contact details at events if they wish to stay in touch afterwards.

“This is a unique feature because there’s lots of people you don’t have contact information for, their emails or whatnot, and you may not want their contact information and don’t want other people having your contact information,” Ting-Hopper said. “For the purpose of this event, you can message each other, but once the event is over everything disappears like Snapchat. If you really like each other, you have to exchange contact information or hope for the next event.”

The idea for this app came from Ting-Hopper’s personal experience running an event through her church. A commercial litigation lawyer by trade, she found it to be an awkward experience when asking people to donate money to help pay for the events she hosted and wanted to find a better way.

“We belong to a church here, and I host a young professionals event at my house, at which we order pizza and cater food and people hang out for a happy hour,” Ting-Hopper said. “I had a money jar for people to donate for the cost of food, and it was a pain, because people like to ignore the money jar when they come in. And then it’s really awkward.”

The next step in the app’s development is marketing it to a wider audience, something Ting-Hopper said she will start by using interns from local colleges including George Washington and George Mason Universities.

With a target audience of people aged in their 20s and 30s, she said they are the perfect people to help her refine and promote her product.

“What better than to ask my target what they like, what they want, what works and what their friends and people will do?” Ting-Hopper said.

And Ting-Hopper said that she hopes Festi takes hold in Arlington and the D.C. area, and perhaps is not so concerned about expanding it into other regions.

“It’s intentional that it’s grassroots in this area,” she said. “I really want to grow it and test it out here. I’d be happier having 500 users that are active rather than 50,000 users with only 100 active. The goal is to really promote community, so if that’s the intention I’d rather just have it in one community that works rather than in 50 communities that works half the time.”

Images via Festi

by Chris Teale December 18, 2017 at 11:45 am 0

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

A former special education teacher now helps people improve their lifestyles by exploring their diets and other factors to see where changes need to be made.

Founded in September, Clarendon-based WholesOMe Health offers health coaching and yoga to individuals and small groups. Founder Lindsey Goldwasser said she looks at someone’s stress levels, emotions and factors like their relationships and finances and how that affects the food they eat.

“We usually go through a health history, and we look through your day-to-day, the food that you eat but we also look at your day-to-day schedule and if there’s certain stressors,” she said. “Usually as we’re talking there are certain things that are very obvious that come up. I think it’s also really letting the other person talk and share what they’re going through and their experiences, and it’s relating and I think often the body has the opportunity to heal itself if we just give it a chance to.”

Goldwasser said the link between stress or poor health and the food we eat is crucial, and can be easy to fix. She gave the example of someone being unhappy in their job, so going to happy hour each evening after work, then eating chicken fingers and fries for dinner as they make “poor food decisions.”

Then, she said, that poor diet can result in a bad night’s sleep, which means starting the next day on the wrong foot. Her health coaching would explore how those factors link together and help solve them.

“Maybe instead of happy hour five days a week, you might go three days a week,” Goldwasser said. “And then you’ll notice if you start feeling better, maybe it’s less and less and you find other things that make you happy instead of doing that after work every day. From that place, when you’re happy on the inside, you’re happy on the outside. It’s like a by-product of being happy, and the food you eat falls more into place.”

Goldwasser said her background as a special education teacher in Fairfax County has set her up perfectly for this new venture, especially given some of the skills she learned in the classroom.

“I think being an active listener is so important, and I think when I was a teacher I was a huge believer in letting children guide how they wanted to be taught and learning from them as much as they learn from us,” she said. “I think active listening was huge, and being really open. Open to working out why and going back to the drawing board and trying it another way.”

And although her company is still in its early stages, Goldwasser put on a program for the holidays with new information released each week. It began the Monday after Thanksgiving (November 27), and has included sessions on the importance of water and energy, as well as why emotional eating is a bad thing.

She then explored colorful foods and meal planning, then a final session focused on planning for a healthy 2018. It is all building towards what Goldwasser hopes will be a productive year for WholesOMe Health.

“I just want to continue to do more individual and group programs, so I’m planning my 2018 now and continuing to build my list and build awareness, because I think there’s so much to be learned about the food we choose for ourselves and for our children, and finding peace with whatever we decide,” she said.

Photos via Facebook

×

Subscribe to our mailing list